Of Gelatin and Gooseberries


This week I harvested an unexpected crop of gooseberries from my garden.

Gooseberries, what on earth do you do with gooseberries? Somehow they had found their way into my veggie patch last year, which currently is more patch than veggies to be quite honest. I was ready to rip out the offending and rather unsightly “weed” and toss it into the trash. Luckily, my cousin in law was visiting. She spotted them and made me try a few right off the stem and I was sold. The offending weed found a home in my garden and right about now is bearing another crop.

So I was of course inspired to create something interesting with these luscious golden globes, and promptly consulted that great sage “Mufti Google”. I decided on a cheesecake as the richness of cream cheese would compliment the tartness of the fruit quite well. I opted for a no bake cheesecake which required Gelatin to help it set and that got me thinking about the whole gelatin debate that got started some years ago. At least that’s when I first started to hear about it.

So basically how it goes is that some members of the ullama say that all gelatin is halaal even if it’s derived from pork bones or non halaal slaughtered animals. The opposing ullama say “hell no”. Gelatin must be derived from only permissable and halaal slaughtered animals.

To try and understand the debate:
Gelatin is a protein substance that is extracted from the skin and bones of animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs.

The ruling on consuming gelatin after it has been introduced into the manufacture of food and medicine depends on whether the gelatin was transformed after being introduced into the manufacturing process. If, after manufacture and treatment the gelatin has transformed into another substance that differs in its characteristics from the impure substance from which it was extracted (such as pig skin and bones), then there is nothing wrong with eating it or using it. But if it has not been changed completely, and it still retains some of the characteristics of the impure substance from which it was taken, then it is not permissible to consume it, because it is part of the pig or impure substance.

Some researchers say that transformation in the case of gelatin is complete, and others say that this is not the case. That the gelatin has undergone only partial transformation and is not halaal to consume.

A detailed analysis and explanation can be found at this link.

I personally lean towards the partial transformation argument. If you consider that chemical testing of food products can determine if the gelatine used is of porcine origin. This is because of properties in the gelatine that enable us to determine it’s origin, which means that the pork product has not transformed completely. So I would say, rather be safe, and look for the halaal stamp on your box of jelly. 

Luckily I had a box of gelatin in my baking cupboard. Halaal stamp – tick. It’s not something that I use much and the box I have is about 10 years old but I came across some info online that says gelatine lasts as long as forever, so I went with it.

I opted for a Sumptuous Gooseberry Cheesecake Recipe from Kate Matharu as my starting point. But I’m not one to follow a recipe completely, so I adjusted it a little for South African ingredients that are easily available and my dietary low sugar preferences. Here is my version.

Enjoy and if you have interesting ideas for gooseberries or opinions and feedback about gelatin, please do add your comments in the section below.

Luscious Gooseberry Cheesecake

Author: Dilshad Parker
Recipe type: Cake
Prep time: 1 hour Cook time: 3 hours Total time: 4 hours
Serves: 8

A decadent rich sugar free, no bake cheesecake complimented with the tart sweetness of golden gooseberries and a touch of ginger.


  • 100g butter
  • 200g ginger biscuits, crushed
  • 250g gooseberries (save a few for topping)
  • 2tbsp xylitol
  • 1 tbsp powdered gelatine (or 3 sheets if using)
  • 1 230g tub cream cheese
  • 1 230g tub mascarpone
  • 50ml cream
  • powdered xylitol, sieved to taste
  • 1 tsp of glace ginger nuggets soaked in a tablespoon of water


1. Melt butter in a pan and add biscuit crumbs. Mix well until combined.
2. Spoon mix into base of a nonstick 18-20cm round, loose-bottom sandwich cake tin,    lightly greased and base lined with greaseproof paper. Press down.
3. Put in fridge for it to firm up and cool.
4. Add gooseberries to a pan along with 2 tbsp xylitol, and heat gently.
5. Cook until softened, making sure plenty of them are still whole. Taste and sweeten some more, if needed. Put to one side and leave to cool.
6. Sprinkle gelatin over ⅓ cup of very hot water. Don't drop it in all together or the granules in the middle won't dissolve. Stir until dissolved. Leave aside.
7. Add cream cheese and mascarpone to a large bowl and beat with electric mixer.
8. Heat cream in a small pan. Don't boil. Remove from heat as bubbles start to form along the sides.
9. Add dissolved gelatin to the warm cream. Stir then pour mixture in with cheese and mix.
10. Add gooseberries to mixture. Stir and taste, adding a shaking of powdered xylitol if it needs sweetening. I used 3 tbsp but you can use more or less. Stir gently until all is combined.
11. Pour onto biscuit base and smooth top. Sit in fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight, for it to set and firm up. Mine took about 3 hours to set in the fridge.
12. Run a thin knife along the edge to loosen the sides.
13. Remove from tin, decorate with reserved gooseberries and glace ginger nuggets. Drizzle with some of the syrup and and slice to serve.


The xylitol can easily be substituted by the same amount of normal sugar and icing sugar.
Add some glace ginger into the cheesecake filling for an extra flavour kick.



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